Going Tough for Clubs, Athletes

It’s biting.

That’s how Rainbow Netball Amateur League (RNAL) secretary general Moses Gukurume aptly describes the situation.

Just when some faint light was beginning to show at the end of a winding yet suffocating tunnel, all hope of returning to sport soon has evaporated. For athletes and clubs alike, it’s even worse than before.

Well, the Government has taken a necessary stance to enforce a national lockdown to contain steeping Covid-19 cases until the end of this month.

The Sports Commission has naturally responded by issuing a blanket ban on all sporting activities in the country. And athletes as well as their clubs are biting their nails.

For Harare Sports Club rugby team’s outgoing captain, Osborne Muhambi, it’s time to consider quitting active play.

Muhambi, who was once a key member of the Sables and Cheetahs wanted to have a swansong season last year but he couldn’t as the term was cancelled due to Covid-19.

He had expressed his intentions to relinquish his captaincy at the famed Harare rugby side this year and continue playing, albeit on a bit-part basis but this situation could force him to go into full-time administration.

After all, he was appointed the director of rugby for Mashonaland Rugby which was officially launched late last year.

“I am still considering but, I may as well be calling time on my playing career. I may decide to go into full-time administration as it stands but definitely I will be relinquishing my captaincy at my club,” he said.

Zimbabwe Rugby Union chief executive Sifiso Made said the Covid-19 ailment could just wash off what had remained of the athleticism from the players while driving clubs into a deep financial crisis.

“Covid-19 is real and the authorities have done well by suspending sporting activities. But it takes a whole lot of time for rugby players to take a rugby shape. Their body structure that is the upper and lower body is conditioned for the agility of the player for the highly demanding game in terms of both mental and physical aspects,” said Made.

“Last year, there was no rugby and the players had to train on their own. We were then allowed to resume physical training without any contact. The players were beginning to shape up though there was still a lot to do on their part.

“All the gains they had accumulated in terms of their shape will now be reversed now that they won’t have as much training as they used to. It’s a tight situation. Even in terms of getting financial rewards, they usually get more when the season is on but it’s difficult in situations like this.”

He said even the association and clubs are in a dire situation since they mostly survive on subscriptions, membership and other streams which require the league to be active.

“It’s a difficult period for us as the association as well as the clubs. The financial situation is very bad. When the season is not on it means there are no subscriptions, no membership and everything.

“It’s very bad so it’s not about athletes only but about the sport in every respect but for the players, it’s really bad. You consider factors like age and their ability to mentally cope with the situation at hand. At the moment we have to pray and hope that the ailment spares us.”

Gukurume said given most if not all netball players survive on the sport, the game could end up losing the athletes it has at the moment.

“Firstly, being an athlete means one has to maintain their athleticism at the top. But for over a year, there has been nothing to talk about in terms of netball,” said Gukurume.

“Covid-19 has dragged us several steps backwards and by the time things normalise, it will be very difficult to cover that lost ground.

“In terms of sport science, there are minimum training hours one has to put individually and as a team which is almost impossible to do alone at home.

“If there is no activity in the league, sponsors lessen their contributions and guess what, the athletes suffer and the clubs are also strained. We have a situation whereby some players have already decided to pursue other avenues for good . . . “

In football, some players like Emmanuel Mandiranga of Harare City have already started learning new skills, with hard-hit clubs failing to pay them.

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